Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200 - 214)



  Q200  Dr Harris: Just let me get this right: one substance/one registration is not required in order to reduce animal testing because all data on animal testing has to be shared anyway.

  Commissioner Liikanen: Yes.

  Q201  Dr Harris: So those who are calling for one substance/one registration, should not use to support that, whether obligatory or to be encouraged, the requirement/the need/the desire to reduce animal testing, because that is going to happen anyway.

  Commissioner Liikanen: The question became very complicated. Can you repeat the final part of your question.

  Q202  Dr Harris: The British Government have said that the point of them promoting one substance/one registration is primarily reducing animal testing. You have just said that, regardless of whether there is one substance/one registration, it is going to happen anyway.

  Commissioner Liikanen: Okay, I give that to Mr Burge.

  Q203  Dr Harris: Did you understand?

  Mr Burge: I did understand. Essentially you are right. Because the animal data is only one part of the information that we would require for the registration, that is the part obviously that we have made in the proposal compulsory. The other parts of the dossier that need to be put together (for example, the chemical safety reports, and other information about volumes, uses, and so on) can be brought together in a voluntary way, under consortia, and we would encourage consortia, but it is not compulsory. So I think the answer to your question is yes.

  Q204  Dr Harris: Finally—and I am just looking at the issue of animal testing—it has been suggested by some that actually there will not be a big increase—in fact, some would argue hardly any increase—in animal testing. Is that wishful thinking by WWF? If that is the received view by the population, will there be outrage if expectations are not realistic when, after a few years, it is clear that there is a lot of animal testing going on?

  Commissioner Liikanen: For that reason, the review in six years is very helpful. Because really the number of the substances which has been registered by that time is still relatively limited, even though their part of the volume, total volume, is very high. Let's say if opinions went in a different direction than we expected, that is a good moment to look at it. Normally, of course, it should be an arithmetical assessment how many of these animal tests you need, when you count the substances, and then that part of the data it is obligatory to share.

  Q205  Dr Harris: But do you think there is a risk that the public is not going to expect a big increase and in fact there may well be a big increase?

  Commissioner Liikanen: I cannot make such an assessment now. I have no data or no knowledge which gives me the possibility to make an assessment that it would be essentially higher or essentially lower, neither higher nor lower.

  Q206  Dr Harris: All the submissions we have had for our inquiry have said: "Animal testing bad. Very important not to be a big increase." Do you think someone out there ought to be arguing that to be realistic it is not only necessary but a good thing to have, when it is the only approach to have this system. If so, if someone should be advocating or defending it, who should be doing that? I have not found anyone who has said, "So be it."

  Commissioner Liikanen: I have been running another file which I could draw to your attention which was animal testing on cosmetics. I would never opt for that solution if there is anything else available. Then we come, at the last phase, to something which is critical for human health and safety, which cannot be tested by any other means, you are in big trouble. Then you should be able to turn to animal testing. I know that everybody does not share this opinion because there are some who say that even in that case it is better to test with human beings than with animals, but that is not my position. If there is absolutely, in the last resort, nothing else available, this possibility is better than others. This one to 10 tonnes, I already mentioned, I proposed to delete that last animal test from that area, though people who are responsible for health and safety at work say that actually you cannot do that; that is especially important for studying the small volumes, the critical ones.

  Q207  Chairman: It will be essential, will it not, to know the inherent properties of these chemicals?—physical and chemical dose-response counts and so on, doing basic research, as it were. What is the Commission doing about getting the work done at that level?

  Commissioner Liikanen: In basic research?

  Q208  Chairman: Yes.

  Commissioner Liikanen: Of course there we have major bodies, the Joint Research Centre, with Mr Busquin, and Ispra in that area, which is, let's say, a high quality research centre—not huge in science, but well connected with the research community.

  Q209  Chairman: Alternatives to animal experimentation—

  Commissioner Liikanen: In that area, we have particular parts of our research programme which are related to that, so we are supported by research programme efforts to create validated alternative testing solutions.

  Q210  Chairman: And that goes for toxicology studies too.

  Commissioner Liikanen: Yes.

  Q211  Chairman: You have basic research being funded.

  Commissioner Liikanen: Yes.

  Q212  Chairman: My next question is about the compliance business. Does uneven compliance across the EU worry you and keep you awake at nights?

  Commissioner Liikanen: I have been now in this city for nine years and there is one issue on which all Member States agree: "My country is the only one which complies with the EU legislation, the others are all cheating." That is everywhere the same position—from my country to yours.

  Q213  Dr Harris: So there is objective evidence!

  Commissioner Liikanen: Yes. In that area, of course, we have a very strong tool for the Commission—although it is not a tool that people always like—and that is the infringement procedure. We have formal possibilities to open the infringement procedure by the letter of formal notice, reasoned opinion and finally taken to court. We do that without emotion. That is the real tool in that area and we must be extremely strict.

  Q214  Chairman: Commissioner, we said we would finish before four to let you get on to your next enjoyable pursuit. Thank you very much indeed for giving us the time and being so frank, open and helpful in your replies. It will help our report very much.

  Commissioner Liikanen: Thank you very much. I am very impressed with the hard work you have done on this file. It is very important to get things right. The Commission took a decision—of course we are always open but, I mean, in this issue, particularly—with an open mind to follow the development relating to the procedure. Also still you learn something we should take into account, so that all the participation of the House of Commons and other respective bodies is welcome. If you have ever questions, Nick Burge, who has been one of the key drafters of the package is always available and the others too. Thank you very much.

  Chairman: Thank you very much.

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